University of Kansas

Ryan Willis is the starter, but questions linger about KU’s quarterback rotation

KU coach David Beaty announced Monday that sophomore Ryan Willis will take over for Montell Cozart as the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback. “His efficiency has been a little bit better than Montell’s the last couple of weeks,” Beaty said Tuesday.
KU coach David Beaty announced Monday that sophomore Ryan Willis will take over for Montell Cozart as the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback. “His efficiency has been a little bit better than Montell’s the last couple of weeks,” Beaty said Tuesday. The Associated Press

Though Ryan Willis was named Kansas’ starting quarterback on Monday, questions remain about the Jayhawks’ quarterback rotation as the team prepares to face TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday.

KU coach David Beaty, who announced on Monday’s “Hawk Talk” radio show that the sophomore Willis would take over for Montell Cozart, explained his reason for making the decision Tuesday.

“His efficiency has been a little bit better than Montell’s the last couple of weeks,” Beaty said. “And really, when he’s in there as of late, he’s done some things that we haven’t seen him do up until that point.”

Now for the confusing part. Beaty was noncommittal when asked if Cozart would play against TCU, saying he needed to give KU “every competitive advantage” by not revealing his exact plans.

Cozart, who started KU’s first four games, appeared to suggest Tuesday that he would be playing at some point Saturday.

“I found out yesterday that (Willis) was going to be making the start and both of us were going to continue to play,” Cozart said. “Going into the game, both of us have to be ready to go.”

Cozart was asked afterwards if he expected to play against TCU.

“We’ve been doing this all year, both quarterbacks,” Cozart said. “I’m sure when he heard I was starting the first three games or however it went, he knew he was going to play some. I’m looking forward to the same thing when Saturday comes.”

Willis replaced Cozart against Texas Tech, completing 14 of 26 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown. Cozart, meanwhile, was 9 of 20 for 97 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Beaty, who has refused to name a starting quarterback in previous weeks, says he changed his routine “given the variables and the circumstances that exist today.”

“It was best for Ryan and our team overall just to get out in front of this and move forward,” Beaty said. “And really kind of give our guys the confidence that they need moving forward today to know where we were headed with the start of the game.”

Willis received congratulatory texts from friends and high school coaches following Beaty’s announcement Monday.

“I’m excited. It’s an opportunity,” Willis said. “I’ve got to do what I can for the team, and hopefully we can win the game.”

Beaty’s conviction in naming a starter was a change in tone from Thursday. Following his team’s 55-19 loss to Texas Tech, the coach indicated that he and the staff had evaluated both Cozart and Willis every day, and that neither had emerged to take over the role.

“In our situation, if it was crystal clear who was first, then we would make that decision. We would,” Beaty said Thursday. “But it’s not been completely crystal clear for us. Realistically, you’ve got to see what guys do in game situations.”

Five days later, Beaty was eager to see how Willis handled his new status as KU starting quarterback.

“As we look four games into the books, you start getting a picture of what the games are bringing as well. Not just practice, but games as well,” Beaty said. “And the thing that we have noticed and we have seen with this guy is he has really done a good job of progressing with his knowledge of what we are doing offensively.”

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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